This might sound stupid or weird, but it is a rhetorical question intended to provoke thought and discussion: what is the main goal of MOD Labs? Is it to build a range of products, or to build an audio platform which can evolve into a rich ecosystem?
You can probably tell by the way I worded it that I strongly believe the second option is better. This is because when you have a rich ecosystem, the demand for the core product (the MOD hardware device range) will naturally grow, and so will MOD’s revenue.
Building Open Source technology is great, but IMHO it’s a huge missed opportunity if you don’t invest into seriously scaling the developer community. The main benefit of FLOSS is that anyone can join in and create great new things. If they don’t, that benefit is lost. The current community is fantastic, but it is tiny and I don’t see many signs of it picking up any serious momentum.
Getting individual 3rd party companies to develop or port plugins to MOD, like was done with the Dwarf Kickstarter, is really really cool, but this alone is not a scalable approach - it would take years to grow this way. And obviously just having MOD Labs do all the work is not scalable either.
So I would like to humbly suggest that MOD thinks more strategically in terms of growing the platform, not just the product range. E.g. dream big - what would be required to attract 100 or even 1000 new plugin developers to the platform? I think it might not take much work actually, because already the software and documentation is pretty good. The main thing missing is probably the economic incentive - plugin developers can make much more money coding for other audio platforms. So how can this be fixed?
One way of jumpstarting more plugin development would be to facilitate Reverse crowdfunding section for new plugins and make it really easy for our great little community to crowd-fund new plugins / improvements to existing plugins, and drive plugin development in the direction we want. Everyone would win from this:
- Existing MOD users get the plugins they want. The only constraint is how much money they’re willing to contribute.
- Plugin developers (especially existing freelance FLOSS audio developers) get new opportunities to earn money in a low-risk way, since the money is pledged up front.
- MOD benefits since their hardware devices become more attractive with every new plugin developed.
I can’t imagine it would be too hard to facilitate this - it would probably just need one person who is good at marketing and building communities to spend some time on it, reusing existing platforms (e.g. gitcoin or BountySource).
If you are reading this and thinking “why is this crazy guy talking about platforms?”, or you aren’t convinced of their importance, please read this amazing rant by one of the best developers I’ve ever come across. Granted, that is a totally different context and different type / size of platform, but I’ve worked with many software projects over about 25 years, and I’ve seen many of them live or die based on the strength of their community and ecosystem. The same is true of FLOSS projects, and commercial audio products. Would Pro Tools be as successful as it is today if it only had a few other companies building plugins for it?
Hope this is helpful, or at least thought-provoking. I would love to see MOD become the next Boss or Behringer in 10 years from now, but based on FLOSS